When we think of Christmas—the birth of Jesus, shortbread cookies, reindeer, eggnog, skating, winter break, spending time with family, crazy sweaters, and gift giving all come to mind.
In my third year of university, these things faded away as my family and I experienced a hard season. My dad was scheduled to undergo a surgery that would leave him bedridden. Overwhelmed with seeing him weak, finishing assignments, and working part time, I went to church. I heard the pastor say, God tells us to “care for one another.”
This made me consider: What does Christmas look like for others? Do they have presents? Are they cared for?
These questions led me to act. I donated gifts to families at a local food bank. I realized that a gift represents hope, love, care, compassion, and empathy for family, friends, and strangers.
This year, while social distancing hinders in-person gift-giving, we can still buy gifts for those less fortunate. So, we’ve rounded up ten gift options for the foodie, art lover, craft-doer, and one that covers everything else under the sun. Together, these are 10 gifts that give back.
Together: Our Community Cookbook by The Hubb Community Kitchen
The Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, wrote the foreword to this cookbook. Featuring Middle Eastern, North African, European dishes, this cookbook captures the community we find through cooking.
Supports: The Hubb Community Kitchen, a group of women who gather to create meals and serve their local English community.
Nut Butter by Carolyn Cesario and Julie Sullivan
For anyone who goes nuts for a new recipe, this niche cookbook shows you how to make homemade nut butters. Composed by the co-founders of Ground Up, Nut Butter contains recipes for you to craft peanut-free (yes, you heard that right) and gluten-free nut butters.
Supports: Ground Up, a non-profit business that helps Oregon women overcoming life challenges get back into the workforce through mentorship and on-the-job training.
Owl Sculpture by UNICEF
While many know UNICEF for its international humanitarian work with children, few actually know of their online store. The online shop features the work of artisans from developing countries, with products including jewelry, fashion, and sculptures. The owl sculpture, intricately carved from suar wood by artist Wayan Rendah, makes a great centrepiece for any room (or stay-at-home study room, hint hint).
Purchase covers: 44 children with water tablets for one year, or 44 children with school supplies!
Hold Still Poster, The National Portrait Gallery
The Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, spearheaded the Hold Still project in March 2020. Hold Still encouraged community members to capture photos based on selected themes. One-hundred photographs made the exhibition, and you can purchase posters of the stunning photos online.
Supports: The National Portrait Gallery, a charity in London, England that conserves fine art, provides free access to galleries, and supports activities for children, including children with neurodiverse needs.
AGO: Highlights from the Collection, Art Gallery of Ontario
Speaking of galleries, if your family misses the beauty inside the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), then check out this beautiful book edited by Jim Shedden. In it, you can view past exhibitions hosted by the AGO from the comfort of your home. Consider this a breathtaking display of masterpieces from around the world.
Supports: The AGO in Toronto, Ontario, which collects innovative art and invites people to experience the world in new and creative ways.
Know someone who loves a good DIY project? Well, Akola created this neat bracelet-maker kit just for them, letting them choose from a colourful assortment of beads and tassels. This kit serves as a great gift for anyone looking for a new artistic hobby during the pandemic.
Supports: The employment of over 200 women in Akola, Uganda.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
If your family and friends have an itch for a classic children’s book, what’s more classic than Louisa May Alcott’s classic, Little Women? But if this isn’t quite for you, then we recommend picking up anything from Robert Munsch, Neil Gaiman, Katherine Applegate, or L.M. Montgomery at your local Indigo.
Supports: Indigo’s Love of Reading Foundation, which serves children and youth in need. During the pandemic they created “Learn at Home” kits and continue to supplement families with literature that breaks boundaries and celebrates diversity.
Animals, cards, and more.
Adopt a Polar Bear, World Wildlife Fund
Anyone who loves nature and animals will appreciate this gift. You may adopt an animal of your choosing and collect an adorable plush polar bear! It’s important to support every animal’s habitat and well-being, so the World Wildlife Fund offers adoptions for sea turtles, caribou, cheetahs, and many other animals.
Supports: The World Wildlife Fund, a global organization, that aims to preserve our biodiversity, endangered species, climate, urban areas, and oceans.
Christmas Cards, by Sick Kids Hospital.
While we can’t meet up in-person, why not send a little Christmas cheer to your friends and family all over the world? SickKids Hospital Foundation has an online store that features Christmas cards—a perfect addition to any gift.
Supports: SickKids Hospital, children’s hospital, in Toronto, Ontario.
Amazon Smile, Amazon
Most of us use Amazon for its quick shipping and wide selection of products, but you can also tailor your shopping to support a charity. Head over to Amazon Smile and select a cause you’re passionate about, where 0.5 per cent of your purchase goes to that charity. Some charities have even made profiles, which means you can browse their list of needed items and shop online for them.
Supports: a charity and cause you care about.